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Joburg Open success for Sullivan

England's Andy Sullivan claimed his second European Tour title in Johannesburg in the space of eight weeks on Sunday, carding a closing 66 to win the Joburg Open.

Sullivan finished 17 under par at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club, two shots ahead of compatriots David Howell and Anthony Wall, Ireland's Kevin Phelan and South African pair Jaco van Zyl and Wallie Coetsee.

The 27-year-old from Nuneaton, who defeated Charl Schwartzel in a play-off in the South African Open at nearby Glendower in January, also claimed one of the three places up for grabs in the Open Championship at St Andrews, with Howell and Wall claiming the other two by virtue of their higher world ranking.

Sullivan began the final round three shots behind overnight leader Coetsee, but moved to the top of a crowded leaderboard with five birdies in a flawless front nine of 32.

A bogey on the 11th dropped the former Walker Cup player a shot behind Howell, who had gone to the turn in 33, only for Howell to hook his tee shot into the water on the 14th.

Wall's challenge also faltered when he found water on the 15th and it was Sullivan who held his nerve down the closing stretch with birdies on the 15th and 18th to seal victory.

"It's unbelievable," Sullivan said at the presentation ceremony. "I never imagined it would happen again so quickly. Coming down the stretch me and my caddie were loving life again and enjoying it. It seems to be a theme, enjoying my golf and getting the right results at the moment."

Sullivan won a trip into space for a hole-in-one during last year's KLM Open and added: "I think I am already there to be honest with you. I am on the crest of a wave at the moment and I don't want it to end. I just want it to keep going.

"I want to say a big thank you to my coach Jamie Gough, who has really turned it around, and my psychologist Lee Crombleholme who has been exceptional this week, working hard on being patient out there.

"I am just grateful it has all paid off and I get to hold another magnificent trophy in South Africa again."

Howell and Wall were both left to rue missed chances, but at least had the consolation of sealing places in the Open in July.

"I played beautifully, probably made three really bad swings all week and they cost me shots each time," Howell said after a closing 69. "Just hit one left on 14 that cost me a shot and then couldn't find the putts coming in.

"It's not been the best start to the year and this is the first really good performance, which has been great. Frustrating not to finish it off because I gave myself a great chance, but it wasn't to be."

Howell ended a seven-year winless drought with victory in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews in 2013 and was thrilled to secure a return to the Old Course for the Open.

" I am absolutely delighted about that, that was one of the main reasons I came down here," he added. "I have not played an Open at St Andrews and I'm not getting any younger so I knew my chances were running out. I am going to really enjoy it."

Wall, who carded a final round of 68 featuring an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys, added: "It's very disappointing because I was really feeling good about today. A win is a win, but to play in the Open, especially at St Andrews, will be lovely."

Phelan missed out on the Open places due to his lowly world ranking, but had the consolation of securing a place in next week's Africa Open by finishing in the top five.

"I was just kind of plodding along the first three days, played some nice golf but didn't really hole that many putts, but got the putts to drop on the front nine today and gave myself a chance," he said after eight birdies and two bogeys in his 66.

" It doesn't look like I have done enough but I am delighted with the way I played."


From Belfast Telegraph